Hope this new year is going well for all of you. I am sad, because I know that this Philippians series will have to wait until the summer to get finished. But Monday I begin my odyssey into the Odyssey. But for now, Paul marches on:
15 Τινὲς μὲν καὶ διὰ φθόνον καὶ ἔριν, τινὲς δὲ καὶ δι᾽ εὐδοκίαν τὸν Χριστὸν κηρύσσουσιν·
16 οἱ μὲν ἐξ ἀγάπης, εἰδότες ὅτι εἰς ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμαι,
17 οἱ δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας τὸν Χριστὸν καταγγέλλουσιν, οὐχ ἁγνῶς, οἰόμενοι θλῖψιν ἐγείρειν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου.
18 τί γάρ; πλὴν ὅτι παντὶ τρόπῳ, εἴτε προφάσει εἴτε ἀληθείᾳ, Χριστὸς καταγγέλλεται, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω. ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρήσομαι,
19 οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν δεήσεως καὶ ἐπιχορηγίας τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
20 κατὰ τὴν ἀποκαραδοκίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα μου, ὅτι ἐν οὐδενὶ αἰσχυνθήσομαι ἀλλ᾽ ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ ὡς πάντοτε καὶ νῦν μεγαλυνθήσεται Χριστὸς ἐν τῷ σώματί μου, εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου.
15 While some preach Christ by envy and strife, others do through goodwill;
16 Some from love, knowing that I am appointed to defense of the gospel,
17 and others from strife proclaim Christ not from pure motives, thinking they will increase the affliction of my bonds.
18 What of this? But in every manner, whether in pretext or in truth, Christ is preached, and in that I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice,
19 for I know that this will turn out for salvation, through your prayers and the assistance of the spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 in accord with my eager expectation and hope, that I may in nothing be ashamed but in all boldness, as always and now, Christ will be exalted through my body, whether through life or through death.
Today I’ll focus on the term φθόνον (phthonon, or phthonos in the nominative).
Phthonos most directly translates to “jealousy” or “envy.” Sumney explains that this is an uncommon term in the NT, appearing only nine times, three of which are in lists of vices. Reumann notes two things about this word: it’s a “thoroughly Greek term, in classical sources,” and it is always a bad thing. Phthonos is a vice, whether it’s envy of friends, political leaders, or the gods. First Clement gives a short history of jealousy and envy, deeming its cause to be outside God’s order, and implicated jealousy in the sins of Cain, David, and Israel itself.
Yet we have also just read a passage from Exodus where the Lord famous says, “I am a jealous [qana’] God.” Is God supposed to be petty and envious? TWOT tells us that qana’ is a vice for humans in the Hebrew worldview, but not for God:
On the other hand the divine action accomplished with “jealousy” may result in good and salvation. Thus this arduous love effected the return (Isa 42:13). … The word is used to denote a passionate, consuming “zeal” focused on God that results in the doing of his will and the maintaining of his honor in the face of the ungodly acts of men and nations.
So phthonos is bad, but qana’ is not necessarily so. Propp even notes that qana’ carries connotations of sexual jealousy and possession. The Septuagint seems to catch this nuance. The Greek renders qana’ not as phthonos, but as ζηλωτής (zēlōtēs), meaning “loyal,” “zealous,” “enthusiastically adherent,” or “patriotic.” Yet English translations often fail to make this distinction, rendering both in the same way. The NIV, NRSV, and NAB all have “envy” (Phil 1:15) and “jealous” (Exodus 20:5).
So perhaps Exodus should not state that God is jealous, but that God is zealous or impassioned, as Propp suggests. To me this makes more sense, and erases this odd anthropomorphism that the KJV and subsequent translations introduce.